When Has God Spoken to You (Journal Exercise Suggestion)

The back was too tight to do a morning run this morning (that’s what stretching and treadmill runs later in the day are for); so instead, God and I had a longer than usual conversation.

During the conversation I got a pretty clear message of something I am to do this week. Receiving that message made me ask this question, “If I made a list of the ‘big, writing-on-the-wall’ messages I’ve gotten from God in my life, what would that include?” 

Seemed like a good exercise, so I did it before I left for the office. As it turns out, in 30 years of adult living, I’d say I’ve received nine such messages. To be clear, “Be nice to idiots is not a ‘big’ message.” The daily messages we receive from the Holy Spirit are nothing more than atuning ourselves to communicating with Him regularly. A big message is something like, “Change your career path,” “I promise you if you’ll stop saying ‘no’ to me about this direction you’ll be 100% satisfied,” or “You’ve been waiting for the green light. Here it is.”

You might call these markers. Markers are specific times or places in our lives where significant things happen. Sure, your wedding day, your child’s birthday, and other physical events are markers. This intentional, spiritual exercise makes you think about your conversations-with-God markers. They can remind you who has been for you, where he has been with you, and what he has done through you.

So what are you waiting for? Get a blank page in front of you. Answer the question. You never know; another “big” message might be ready to get marked.

But I Don’t Want To

One reality to living alone-if you don’t do the chores, ain’t nobody else going to either. As a task-oriented guy, not usually a big deal.

But then there’s these two things: mopping and dusting. What is it with these two? Does anyone else dislike them as much as I do? I won’t tell you my lack of getting them done in order to protect my reputation of being neat and tidy.

I’ve noticed something else. There are also some spiritual disciplines that I have the same problem with. Just like house chores, some spiritual disciplines are just more enjoyable, easier, or natural. Yet, when I make myself do the less enjoyable ones, just like when I dust or mop, I’m glad I did. Like the reflection of mopped tile, my soul feels cleaner and more reflective of God.

So how do we tackle these “but I don’t want to” chores and disciplines? It doesn’t seem to work to wait until the mood strikes or to just suck it up and grudgingly put them on the to do list, on which they seem to easily get bumped down. I’m not sure what would work for you, but I can tell you what happened today to cause me to dust. I decided I wanted to see clean, to see a reflection more than anything else. It comes down to choice, to wanting better, to having the end in mind, to not settling for easy. My want has to change.

The example I can draw from in a different area of my life is running. Right now, I’m back to running 20+ miles a week-haven’t been there in almost 4 years. I’m doing that to build a foundation that will prepare me to train for the longest race in my life next year. I want to run this race. I don’t always want to get up in the dark and run. I don’t always want to endure the summer humidity. But when I remember the end in mind, I get up and hit the road. And I’m glad I did when I finish.

What’s your end game? What do you need to decide you want in order to do what you don’t want to do? Nail it down. You’ll be glad you did.

Good Crying

Crying. When you think of that action, most likely you think of something bad or sad happening. It ain’t good if you’re crying.

During a segment on 60 Minutes tonight, a NASA engineer described going home the night after a stressful but successful project of landing Curiosity, a car-sized robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars. He said, “I crawled into bed with my wife and wept.” He didn’t sound sad at all. He sounded joyfully spent, exhaustedly happy. 

Have you ever experienced that kind of crying? You might call it having a good cry. I’ve had some. One that particularly comes to mind was at the end of my last marathon in 2012. I tried to control it, but there was no controlling it. I was joyfully spent, exhaustedly happy.

What are you working on that you are so committed to that when it’s over you could have a good cry? What life mission are you following that makes you have a good cry occasionally? When was your last good cry?

Go after being joyfully spent. Go after good crying.

Running Tuesdays: My Recovery Gadgets

I have issues. And I have solutions.

Main issue-tight muscles. Issue number one is tight calf muscles. So, more and more I’m relying on heat and ice to fight off injury-ice after the run, heat in between runs. This gel pack is one of the best items I’ve received in a race goodie bag. So useful. 

This item, called The Stick, works for muscles all over the body. It is a daily solution, particularly for my legs. Worth every penny.

For my neck and any other trigger points, this item works wonders. It’s called The Trigger Wheel.

These are a few of the items that keep me on the road. What keeps you moving?

Running Tuesdays: Recovery That’s Right for You

by Michael Wilder

​When it comes to running, finding a way to recover in between runs is extremely important. Recovery allows your body to adjust, strengthen, or maintain your muscles. It sounds like a no brainer, but your muscles all over your body are the reason you can run. Muscles need time to rest in order to function correctly

​I’m currently in the process of running towards my goal of 1,000 miles in 2017. As of today I am 28% of the way (275 miles). With the extra miles I am running each week, my body has really felt it…way more than marathon training! ​For marathon training, the miles were short, short, and then really long. The two runs during the week were maintenance runs, while the one run on the weekend was a long run increasing distance to build up endurance. The following week was 3 short runs to preserve the progress. Basically, the week with 3 short runs were like a week “off” of running. It allowed my body to recover slowly to meet the next week’s increase of miles. ​Trying to reach my goal of 1,000 miles, I have pushed my body more than in the past. I need to run at least 20 miles a week to reach that goal. Knowing my future schedule and the hot Florida summer, I am “banking” miles as much as I can. Instead of going for 20 miles a week, I am reaching towards 30 miles a week. 

​With this increased mileage on my body and muscles, recovery is a must. Since I don’t have those “rest” weeks as I would during marathon training, I use the days in between to achieve rest. I only run 3 times a week with 2 days off between my “longer” weekend runs. I tried to run 4 to 5 times a week to achieve my goal, but my body and schedule did not groove with that plan. So I just run longer 3 times a week instead of running more frequently with shorter distances. This plan has been working for me for the last 2 months.

​Besides using rest days to aid recovery, I do yoga on the days I do rest. Like I said on another blog post, I am a big fan of runners and athletes doing yoga. Yoga stretches the muscles as well as focuses the mind. Yoga allows the muscles to release the tension and toxics that get built up from overusage. I try to do my yoga DVDs twice a week.

The last thing I do for recover is foam roll before bed every night. The benefits of foam rolling are to soothe tight, sore areas (known as “trigger points”) and speed up muscle recovery. The foam roller I have has a PVC pipe as its core so there is no bend or sag unlike ones that are just foam. Let’s just say to me foam rolling feels amazing but is a very awkward yet intimate experience.

​Having a plan of recovery for a runner is important, especially for me who is trying to achieve a high mile goal. The bottom line is you need to find and have a plan that fits you. It’s your body, your muscles, and your time. So do what feels best and right for you!

Running Tuesdays: Hype or Hope or Hypothermia (Recovering after a run)

by Lorraine Kennimouth Williams

I remember my first long run; it was approximately 10 years ago when I ran 11 miles without stopping! I was jubilant and I was DEAD; absolutely worn out, the rest of the day was a fog! I remember wondering how people were capable of running such high mileage and then getting on with the rest of their day. I would hear conversations like, “I am going to Ikea after this to pick up a bed for the baby,” or, “I can’t go to breakfast because I have to attend my son’s little league game,” or, “After this we’re off to Disney,” and so on – and all I could think was, “After this I am going home to die on the couch”! I just couldn’t imagine it! Each week when I would run 10+ miles on a Sunday morning I would literally be spent! 

After doing a little research I was introduced to post workout drinks. These were supposed to replenish the nutrients your body loses on such long runs; they are touted as having the perfect 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. So I tried them – I tried all of them! And …. although I received favorable feedback from others who tried these concoctions, it was hundreds of dollars later when I decided they didn’t work for me.  

Let me attempt to explain how I felt after one of these gargantuan runs. I didn’t feel achy or stiff. It wasn’t even about tired limbs; it was plain and simple fatigue that would permeate my entire being and reduce me to a blob of nothingness that could do nothing more than flop on a couch.

One day I read an article that stated ice baths were the key to rid the body of “fatigue blues” – I went for it – No holds barred! My preferred method was as follows…. Fill the tub with tepid (almost cold) water, enough water to cover legs and hips – almost waist high. Have 30-1bs bag of ice within arms reach of the bath tub. Carefully climb into water – fully clothed (don’t change out of running gear to include socks). Once body is fully immersed, slowly empty the ice into the water – Brrr! The trick is to try and remain perfectly still and not hold your breath. Now …. Stay like that for 20 minutes! After the alarm goes off, JUMP out of tub, rip off freezing wet clothes as fast as viably possible, dry off and wrap yourself in warm towels. Once you are swaddled in towels, jump into bed until your body slowly regains feeling and then take a nice hot shower – Voila! 

Okay, this is torture – but it WORKS! It really, really works! I found myself doing this after every long run – the benefits were worth the 20 minutes of torture. Let me explain what it did for me. After going through the aforementioned regimen, I would honestly feel as if I hadn’t run at all; I would feel as fresh as if getting out of bed after a 9-hour restful night. It was magic! I became one of those individuals who too could shop in Ikea, go to baseball games or go off to save the world. I started to recommend these torture sessions to all of my running buds; I had found the “fountain of youth” for runners, but alas, no one else was as brave – they wouldn’t even consider it!  

Fast forward: several marathons and half-marathons later and ice baths are a thing of the past. The reason … your body eventually gets used to the pounding of the pavement, and it magically appears to strengthen and endure all by itself – naturally. Where I used to spend my energy after a race running to fill the tub with ice, I now use that energy to find the first available beer and a nice meal to celebrate.  

Running Tuesdays: Convenience vs Agenda Running

For the last two weeks, Lorraine and Michael shared their thoughts on running alone and running in groups. My turn.

I mostly, which means +90% of the time, run alone. And the answer is really quite simple. CONVENIENCE.

Running when, where, how far, and at what pace I want is really more important to me than anything else. Being able to decide that either on the spot or the night before is more difficult when others are involved. I’ve tried to run routinely with others, and it has mostly ended up being more of a hassle or frustration-counterintuitive to the rewards of running.

Even though I thrive on the convenience of running alone, there is a reason I engage in group running. That reason is when I need to focus on a set AGENDA for which the group is already committed or can help me achieve. That agenda could be anything from building up distance, running a particular tempo, or strength work on hills or a bridge. That agenda overrides any desire for convenience. For me, convenience gets sacrificed to the drive to fulfill the agenda.

You may have heard of the struggle some people have between playing at their work or working at their play. You can guess which way I lean. Some runners are really good at “playing” while they run. I generally have to work to play at my play. By work I mean I mentally have to tell myself to chill, relax, and don’t think too much when I run with a group. One simple way I’ve done that is to not run with any type of technology. If I don’t know my tempo, it keeps me from adjusting it. Ironically, I sometimes choose to run with others to force myself to pull back. I’m one of those odd birds that self-motivates. Those birds need others to help them chill. You could say that my agenda sometimes needs to be not to have one.

If you are toying with running against your normal routine of running alone or with others, I suggest giving yourself a week or two to experiment. Do at least one run a week outside of your normal routine. You’ll most likely learn something about yourself that will move you forward. Think about what feeds you but also what pushes you. Then go about making it work. Find the balance. Enjoy the road.

Running Tuesdays: Preferring Running Alone

by Michael Wilder

Running alone versus running with others can quickly turn into a discussion of being an introvert or extrovert. Introverts keep to themselves, but extroverts seek out others. Introverts need to be alone to “recharge” their batteries while extroverts need other people to “recharge” their batteries. Introverts are quieter compared to extroverts who are louder. I can keep going down a list of the differences between the two, but I believe running alone versus running with others is not an introvert or extrovert thing. I personally know both groups of people who run alone or with others. What it boils down to is personal preference.

Yes, I am an introvert, and yes I do prefer running alone. Running alone allows my mind to focus on the past, present, and the future. Running alone is a form of worship for me. I listen to worship music and admire His creation. Running alone gives me the opportunity to learn. I love to listen to pod cast and audio books while I run. Listening to those types of media helps me be a better person. Running alone does “recharge” my batteries especially if I am stressed or worried about something. Running is a release from everyday life. I struggle getting up early during the week to run, but after the back and forth between my mind of getting up or not, I always feel ready for the day after a run. I am not saying I can’t do this “stuff” alone, but it would be kind of awkward/rude for me to be listening to an audio book while my friend is talking to me.

Like I said earlier I prefer to run alone, but I enjoy running with people too. A majority of my runs are alone. This is not on purpose; rather it is because of when I do my runs. Running at 6am on a weekday 3 times a week usually does work with my running friends. Plus, if I do run with someone it would require a drive on my part or theirs. My preference is to get up at the time I want to go for a run, walk out my door, and start. When it comes to running with someone else, you have to organize your schedules. Organizing schedules is extremely hard to do in this busy world of ours. This is why I like to have scheduled group runs. Once a month I try to get with someone else to run with. We plan it out a couple of weeks ahead of time.

When I do run in a group setting it is enjoyable. For the most part of a run, no matter what distance, I chat it up with the people I am running with. I don’t run with a group to improve my time, which does come as an added bonus, but as a way to connect with my running friends. My wife goes to Starbucks and spends several hours with friends talking and connecting. I go for a run with my friends instead of going to Starbucks. For me, there is no greater joy than talking with a good friend while you run. Life’s struggles, issues, or problems seem to be clearer while you run and talk it out. Maybe it’s the physical activity or the cool morning air. However, running in a group for the purpose of talking and connecting is beneficial.

Bottom line here is that this introvert likes to be alone while running but will spread his extroverted wings and lace up with a group. As long as the group is out for a fun run, then I am all for it!

Running Tuesdays: Solo Running vs. Group Running

by Lorraine Kennimouth Williams

Should I go it alone or bring in the troops? This is a question asked by many runners when lacing up their running shoes in anticipation of their daily morning run – translation …. Should I run solo or run with the group?

This is a question I answered firmly for myself many years ago since running with the group is hands down my preferred method; for me it is a non-zero sum game or a win-win all of the time! Why is running in a group more attractive to me than “going it alone”? For many reasons, most of which I believe are psychological barriers … 

  • The group gives me new-found respect for “accountability” by getting me out of bed in the morning.
  • The group helps heighten my intestinal fortitude. I am less likely to exaggerate an ache or a pain and therefore less likely to stop. 
  • I become competitive when in a group; I don’t push myself anywhere near as much as I do when running with the group.   
  • The group speeds me up – I tend to run faster when running with the group. A baseline is set, and I feel the need to keep up with [at least] the slowest runner even if their pace is faster than my average. 
  • With the group, I find myself running in unfavorable elements and have done so on many occasion. If I am alone and the elements are unseemly, I will “bag it in” and go home.

But, more importantly that any of the above points, the comradery and compassion displayed by a group is unparalleled! Running buds look out for you; they are there for you; failing is not an option when they are around. They are that voice of affirmation that forever tells you how awesome you are and how you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to. They are the guys who constantly remind you day after day that “It always seems impossible until it’s done”! They are the savior, the rock, the wings, the inspirational vehicle – wait a minute, something of great importance I may have forgot to mention …… I’m a “screaming extrovert”!!

Some people adore running alone – they do it for the very reason of taking a break from the chaos – they have been around people and telephones and emails and demanding children/spouses all day, and the last thing they want is to run with a bunch of chatty people! They look so forward to claiming that quiet space, the tranquility that a solo run offers …. They wouldn’t dream of spoiling it with a group. So, as we can see, it depends on what you are looking for and what works for you.  

Some points to adhere to whether you are a solo runner or a groupie –

  • Make your runs work for you. 
  • Many of us want to become faster runners, so have a goal and always keep it in mind. 
  • If you run with a group or a partner, they may not be progressing at the same rate as you. Make sure not to hold back because of this. Run your own race!

Depending on the mindset, some believe you can accelerate your progress by running alone. This is based on you being able to concentrate on breathing, stride and overall positioning and is probably very true for some. I, on the other hand, know for me and many like me the only way to become faster is to run with faster peeps. Some of us find it “easier” to accept the level of discomfort when in a group setting than when alone; we don’t have the grit to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone when alone.

So, next time you lace up, decide whether you’re going to “go it alone” or “rally the troops.”

Running Tuesdays: Surviving>Reviving>Thriving 

January 2 I wrote about my 2016 reading and described it as resurrected. The word I would say describes my 2016 running is revived.

After my last marathon in November 2012, my running went into somewhat survival mode. I was a little burned out. Managed a decent half in March 2013 but had little motivation after that. And definitely after the Ultra Ragnar later that year, I went into a phase of not really enjoying running. Then health/surgery/recovery swallowed up 2014&2015.

So 2016 was the comeback year. Traveling with friends to run in Detroit in October definitely relit the flame. I ran over 100 miles the last two months of the year, something I hadn’t done in three years. That marker, “something I hadn’t done in three years,” became my drive. 

My drive is back. My word for 2017 in running is thrive. I’m not yet back to 2012 fitness when I ran my best marathon time. So one goal for this year is to get back to race condition where I don’t feel like I’m surviving the distance but thriving at it. My total mileage for 2016 was 800+-revival level. Thriving goal for 2017 is over 1,000, closer to 1,200.

One cool thing I determined last year was a new bucket item, which is to run a race (any distance) in all 50 states. The October half in Detroit put me at 9 states. I checked off another state New Year’s Day with an 11k in Morganton, NC(#10). I’m shooting to get to 13 by year’s end. My first half of the year race schedule includes:

Through Surviving. Completed Reviving. Pursuing Thriving.